Navigating the crisis: My IT team's ERP migration win

Tackling a large technical migration is never easy, especially with added pressure of a newly-remote workforce. ATW Head of IT Rose Manjarres shares her team's recent win.
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Editor’s note: IT leaders have quickly shifted gears to enable remote working and overcome unplanned technology and business challenges in the weeks following the COVID-19 outbreak. The Enterprisers Project is documenting their stories and celebrating IT team wins in an ongoing series. 

You’ve likely been through an ERP upgrade before, but have you ever gone through one while simultaneously moving your entire workforce to a remote model? That was the challenge facing the ATW IT organization earlier this month. And it turns out the timing worked in favor of ATW, North America’s leading provider of trailers, work trucks and related parts. Rose Manjarres, ATW’s Senior Vice President and Head of IT, explains why. 

What challenges did your IT organization face as it worked to convert your employees to remote workers? 

Manjarres: The ATW IT team had just migrated a critical ERP application that is used to run 50 percent of our business to a cloud architecture at the same time the company announced that we would move to a work-from-home scenario. The timing was actually perfect because we were also rolling out a new way to allow users to connect to the ERP application. We then quickly needed to provide a solution that allowed our back office users the ability to also connect remotely from home. 

[ Are your people coming together in new ways? Read also: A silver lining to the current crisis: Rethinking work. ]

Many of these employees had never worked remotely before, and most worked from a desktop computer. Implementing a new virtual desktop solution proved to be quite timely for ATW, and it turned out to be the best solution for remote connectivity. It allowed those who already had a personal computer at home to connect to our network via a web browser. In many instances we did not have to provide these employees a laptop. This was a new tool recently released by a vendor and we were very early adopters. 

What did the timing of all of this look like? And how did your company’s announcement that asked employees to work from home change things? 

Just like running a relay race, a large technical migration takes planning, practice, patience, endurance and seamless hand-offs.

Manjarres: Just like running a relay race, a large technical migration takes planning, practice, patience, endurance and seamless hand-offs. Beginning the night of Saturday, March 14, our ATW IT team put months of planning into action and began the ERP migration. The team worked tirelessly through the night to ensure the migration was completed successfully. By Sunday afternoon they were ready for ERP users to check out the application. A total of 50 users logged in to begin testing, and the result was a resounding success.

But the team had not crossed the finish line quite yet. To go-live on Monday morning, they needed all hands-on deck to assist with resolving help desk tickets. What was unexpected though, was an issue the remote desktop vendor encountered with the significant increase of remote workers around the world as a result of COVID-19. This impacted everyone using remote desktop services, and not just ATW – talk about poor timing. Allowing users to connect via our new virtual desktop solution saved the day.

What else helped? 

Manjarres: While change and modern technology is great, the IT team understood many of our users had been following the same processes for many years. Even after sending detailed email instructions, the team anticipated and were able to address many questions. A tip here is to choose multiple avenues of communication. 

We had previously included communications on kiosks in break rooms and other areas where employees congregate to get the word out. We printed flyers and placed them near the coffee maker and at employee workstations to ensure users were aware of the migration that was about to take place. We created remote connectivity installation instructions and equipped our help desk so they were prepared when users started calling in.

Can you share a little bit about any positive outcomes? Any special recognitions or shout-outs you’d like to share?  

Despite all the challenges, the IT and business users got through them together as a company.

Manjarres: Despite all the challenges, the IT and business users got through them together as a company. With the migration of nine ERP servers to the cloud, the application is in a much more stable environment with less risk for failures or downtime. Many users have also noticed an increase in performance. This important initiative couldn’t have been successful without the many hours put in from our IT migration team and our ERP users who offered to test multiple times. ATW’s IT team has been appreciative of everyone’s patience as we worked through the Help Desk tickets, and the positive comments we received in the Help desk satisfaction surveys. 

We would like to recognize System Administrator Michael Morrison who architected the solution; Vice President of Cost Accounting Margaret Parks for her hours of testing and answering many questions; RCS CEO Chris Rutz for making everything work behind the scenes; Help Desk Supervisor Heather House for always being there to solve our problems; IT Technician Sherman Campbell for server clean-up and working tickets; Director of Software Engineering Ryan Mueller and Software Engineer Nick Jones for solving connections to other applications and bar-code scanners; Project Manager Michelle Roberts for keeping tasks in line; and Director of Infrastructure Matt Sword for his fearless leadership. Thank you to everyone else who participated in making this all come together nicely.

Ginny Holden is an independent consultant who brings the practice of IT to life through memorable storytelling.